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Make data your best friend

Data is becoming an ever more important factor in a company’s success, and this applies to almost every industry. Alma Diverso’s Senior Web Analyst, Kimmo Katajamäki, describes the most common mistakes that companies make when using data.

Lack of business-oriented targets

It is impossible for companies to operate properly without set targets. Data analytics must work towards meeting business requirements at every level from the strategic company-wide level, to a unit and operations level. If a company lacks common strategic goals, knowledge management efforts cannot be successful at either unit or operations levels. A data-oriented approach must be adapted even at a unit level in order to ensure the capture of master data in a uniform manner, such as permanent key data and unit-specific operative data. This requires a systematic view of knowledge management and a culture of management through knowledge.

Data ownership and privacy

…are a hot topic in many companies at the moment. Privacy is particularly critical in consumer business, and questions concerning access rights will become key issues as selling data becomes more common. Many companies are only starting to realise that legal issues are now more firmly linked to operative processes regardless of the industry.

Don’t trust technology blindly

Trusting technology is often good grounds – or rather, an easy excuse – to outsource reasoning and responsibility. I admit that I sometimes trust technology too much, for example when a system is believed to magically solve a problem: “Once we have system x in place, we’ll…”.

However, technology is just an enabler, a servant, and it should not be considered valuable in itself. Even the most advanced systems are useless if their data is not collected and analysed, and the conclusions drawn are not applied in practice.

Forgetting about people

…often goes together with trusting technology too much. This manifests itself at its worst when there are funds for acquiring new systems but not for hiring people to use them. Avinash Kaushik’s 10/90 rule has been known in analyctics for a long time: use one tenth of your your total investments in systems and nine tenths in people as, ultimately, it is people who are able to perform analyses and get ideas.

Too many data-related projects and operations are carried out on the IATOD basis, i.e. ‘in addition to other duties’, and this paralyses operations. In the worst case, people are burnt out in the struggle through everyday life. The situation is even worse in the analytics and data sectors, where there is a chronic shortage of specialists. Please appreciate your specialists – they are your company’s most valuable asset!

Stay out of cliques

Formation of cliques and lack of communication are typical weaknesses particularly in old organisational cultures and structures. Particular operations or individual people may be involved in something quite fantastic – each in their own corner and not knowing about each other (or knowing but being too jealous to give others any recognition). This generally results in overlapping operations and general inefficiency.

Breaking the cliques is certain to cause resistance but big changes cannot be made without someone hurting. Successful collaboration across units and operations requires transparency, efficient management and engaging the key people. The person or team who has been given the power by the management must be able to involve everyone so that all parties work towards a shared goal. This typically requires a completely new approach to communication as well as shared goals.

Lack of continuity

…is a common problem in companies. Disappointingly little attention is still paid to maintenance and continuity in system projects, for example. As if things are supposed to happen or work by themselves. The harsh reality is, though, that the quality of data and the relevance of the meters used for measuring the goals must be constantly assessed. This requires a systematic approach and – yes, you guessed it – real people who ensure that everything links to the company-level operations.

Summa summarum

There is no short cut to the ideal data world, but the question requires a target-oriented perspective, good knowledge management and hard work. Define your business-based objectives, authorise the relevant people and get to work. Everything will work out!

Kimmo Katajamäki
Senior Web Analyst, Alma Diverso